Remember Lot’s wife

“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Luke 17:28-33

This post has been rambling around in my mind for a few days. Here’s how it came to be there… Al walked up to me with his favorite book (apart from the Bible, of course) in his hand. I thought he wanted to show me something for the church bulletin. Instead, he said “Here’s your assignment” (what?? I have an assignment??) “Read this chapter and then do a post about it.” The book is Holiness by J.C. Ryle and the chapter is chapter 10 ‘A Woman to Be Remembered.’ So I read the chapter (I’ve never read the book) and thought, ‘hmmm that could be interesting.’ In fact, at first I tried to write a story about a modern Lot’s wife because I believe that the account of her life is so contemporary today, but the story is still in my drafts. Maybe sometime I will post it.

Ryle reminds us that Christ has called us to ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’ He invites us to look at her circumstances, her sin and her judgement.

Circumstances:
Lot is called a just and righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7-8. (Chapter 9 in Holiness deals with lingering Lot and I may post about that chapter later.) Lot’s wife enjoyed religious privileges. She was a part of the family of Abraham and witnessed the hand of God in miraculous ways, not the least of which was having the angels take her by hand to escape Sodom. She saw the hand of God on Abraham’s life and, by marriage, in her own life. The faith of Abraham was lost on her. The prayers on her behalf by Abraham were heard and acted upon by God and yet she was lost. She was privileged more than most in the propinquity of faithful people in her life at that time. Ryle says “Notwithstanding all her opportunities and means of grace, notwithstanding all her special warnings and messages from heaven, she lived and died graceless, godless, impenitent, and unbelieving.”

Now consider our religious privileges. Were we brought up in a Christian home with godly parents? Do we attend a solid church and go to great conferences? Are you a pastor’s wife or Sunday School teacher? Were you biblically trained? Do you wear a veneer of American Christianity? Are you authentic? Are you passive, keeping up appearances? By the grace of God, we have access to the Word of God in America. Are we condemned or saved by it? Ryle encourages us to value religious privileges, but not to rest entirely upon them. “Let us desire to have the benefit of them in all our movements in life, but let us not put them in the place of Christ. Let us use them thankfully, if God grants them to us, but let us take care that they produce some fruit in our heart and life. If they do not do good, they often do positive harm: they sear the conscience, they increase responsibility, they aggravate condemnation. The same fire which melts the wax, hardens the clay; the same sun which makes the living tree grow, dries up the dead tree, and prepares it for burning. Nothing so hardens the heart of man as a barren familiarity of sacred things.”

The Sin of Lot’s Wife:
“She looked from behind her husband and became a pillar of salt.” That doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? However, there was great sin in that backwards look. Ryle says that although the look was a little thing, it revealed the true character of Lot’s wife. There was disobedience to the clear command of the angel, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”Gen. 19:17 This disobedience seems to indicate a proud unbelief. Did she doubt the thing that God had promised to do to Sodom? Would she have stayed behind if the angels didn’t extend the very mercy of God to Lot, his daughters and his wife by physically taking them out of the city? Did she cause Lot to linger? Ryle says, “When we cannot see the reason of God’s dealings, our duty is to hold our peace and believe.” Finally, Ryle shows us that the look reveals a secret love of the world in Lot’s wife. her eye turned to her treasure. Lot’s wife was worldly to the core. She seemed to be on the road of safety, but the lowest and deepest thoughts of her heart were for the world.

Do we reveal our own hearts in the little things? I do. My impatience is usually reserved for the quieter times in the home when it seems to spring naturally from me. In quick responses and retorts, before I’ve had a chance to think or stop them. Have we ever acted in a proud unbelief of what God has commanded us? Do we harbor a secret (or maybe not so secret) love of the world in our hearts? How often do we flirt with worldliness or engage with worldliness? Certainly, the world flirts with us! Ryle exhorts people in all situations to be careful. How easy it is to begin to fall in love with the world. We must love Christ more!!! Listen to Ryle again, “Follow Christ for His own sake, if you follow Him at all. Be thorough, be real, be honest, be sound, be wholehearted. If you have any religion at all, let your religion be real. See that you do not sin the sin of Lot’s wife.”

Finally, the judgement of Lot’s wife:
“…she became a pillar of salt.” “God, who gave her life, took it in the twinkling of an eye. From living flesh and blood, she was turned into a pillar of salt.”
What a fearful and hopeless end! Suddenly, in a moment, in the very act of sin. God can and does punish sharply those who sin willfully. Ryle points us to Pharaoh; Korah, Dathan, Abiram; Hophni and Phinehas – the priest’s sons; Saul; Ahab; Absalom; Beshazzar; Ananias and Sapphira – all of these had the privilege of seeing the hand of God at work, but how they misused that knowledge of God and the privilege. “They all sinned with a high hand against light and knowledge; and all were suddenly destroyed without remedy… They went with all their sins upon them, unpardoned, unrenewed, and utterly unfit for heaven. And being dead, they yet speak. They tell us, like Lot’s wife, that it is a perilous thing to sin against light, that God hates sin, and that there is a hell.”

So, Al, I have read and reported. However, I’ve also seen the importance of remembering Lot’s wife. Praise God for the mercies for those in Christ! I’ve also been wrestling through some questions that have to do with Lot – called just and righteous – but acted almost as bad as his wife. He lingered, he hesitated, he sinned, he kept trying to change the plan! But he did also grieve over the sin around him. I trust that the grace of God is perfectly placed.

“Oh may these solemn words of our Lord Jesus Christ be deeply graven on all our hearts! May they awaken us when we feel sleepy, revive us when we feel dead, sharpen us when we feel dull, warm us when we feel cold! May they prove a spur to quicken us when we are falling back, and a bridle to check us when we are turning aside! May they be a shield to defend us when Satan casts a subtle temptation at our heart; and a sword to fight with, when he says boldly, ‘Give up Christ, come back to the world, and follow me!’ Oh may we say, in such hours of trial, ‘Soul, remember thy Saviour’s warning! Soul, soul hast thou forgotten His words? Soul, soul, ‘REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE!'” JC Ryle

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